Newsday Runner of the Year: Zach Van Houten, East Meadow, Sr.
Van Houten wasn’t leading at the halfway point of the Sectional Nassau championship. But, by the time he crossed the finish line, there was no doubt as to who the best in the county was. Van Houten used an expertly run final mile-and-a-half to clinch the title in 15 minutes, 25.92 seconds on the 5-kilometer course at Eisenhower Park in East Meadow. Van Houten topped Great Neck South’s Eric Shu by 12.28 seconds, most of that made up in the final mile.
"At the mile [mark], we were at 5:06.0, which is slower than what we normally go," Van Houten said after the race. "So, [Shu] made this huge [move] and got me [by] a couple seconds within no time. I knew he was obviously going really hard, but I felt him struggling and I knew I’d be able to catch him."
Van Houten did catch him and won his second title in two weeks. He won the Nassau Class I championship a week earlier in 15:19.23, 9.23 seconds ahead of the field. That time was the fastest in Nassau this season, according to trackconference.com.
"I couldn’t be happier," Van Houten said of his season. "If you told me last year that any of this would have happened, I probably wouldn’t have believed you. To break 15:20 at counties, to be a county champion, it’s just amazing."
Anthony Diaz, Farmingdale, Sr.
Whether it’s on the track or the trails, Diaz is toward the front of every distance race in Nassau. He was fourth in the Sectional Nassau championship in 15:52.19 on the 5k course at Eisenhower Park. In March, he ran a 15:38.5 at Eisenhower, the fourth fastest time in Nassau this season, according to trackconference.com.
Gavin Ehlers, Westhampton, Jr.
He was the top runner in Suffolk. Ehlers won the Class B championship in 12:48.97 on the 2.5-mile course at Sunken Meadow State Park. He also took home the Division III title in 12:47.68.
Max Haynia, Westhampton, So.
The sophomore was second to his teammate, Gavin Ehlers, in the Suffolk Class B championship. Haynia ran 13:05.76 on the 2.5-mile course at Sunken Meadow State Park and helped Westhampton win the team title.
Grant Samara, Port Jefferson, Sr.
He won the Class C/D race at the Suffolk championships, capturing the C title in 13:06.07 on the 2.5-mile course at Sunken Meadow State Park. The victory helped Port Jefferson win the team title.
Wyeth Semo, Northport, Jr.
The junior won the Suffolk Class A championship in 13:00.89 on the 2.5-mile course at Sunken Meadow State Park. A week earlier, he won the Division II title in 13:26.89. Northport won both team championships.
Eric Shu, Great Neck South, Sr.
Shu finished second at the Sectional Nassau championship in 15:38.20 on the 5k course at Eisenhower Park. The time was the third-fastest in Nassau this season, according to trackconference.com. He was third in the Nassau Class I championship in 15:48.66.
Vincent Simonetti, Massapequa, Sr.
He was second in the fastest race of the season in Nassau, the Class I championship on April 17. Simonetti ran 15:28.46 that day on the 5k course at Eisenhower Park. He was third at the Sectional Nassau championship in 15:43.90.
Coach of the Year: Jack Ryan, Westhampton
A 2017 graduate of Westhampton, Ryan is a young coach — but he’s proven to be a good one. Westhampton won the Suffolk Class B championship with 24 points. They swept the top three places and put four runners in the top 10. They also won the Division III championship with 31 points.